Hootsuite is the global leader in social media management, trusted by more than 18 million customers in 80% of the Fortune 1000, with over 4,000 enterprise customers. The company has the broadest dataset in the marketplace, used in more languages and in more countries than any other social media management platform. Forward-thinking businesses and organizations turn to Hootsuite for unparalleled expertise, customer insights and a collaborative ecosystem that helps people and organizations succeed with social media.
Although widely known and used around the world, Hootsuite believed company recognition, thought leadership and brand visibility in the U.S. should be elevated and their platform more differentiated. Hootsuite hired Karbo Communications as the U.S. agency of record in September 2019 based on the team’s strategic counsel, creative approach to PR and proven, successful track record in representing a mixture of B2B tech, social, B2B advertising, and martech companies. Karbo Com and Hootsuite remain partners to this day.
As today’s tech markets become increasingly oversaturated, it’s difficult to stand out and easy to resort to established buzzwords. Formulating the right message — and communicating it in a way that is unique and compelling — is crucial to ensuring your target market knows who you are, what you do and what your brand stands for.
Here are some strategies to ensure your brand’s voice is heard in a crowded space.
Talk about the specific pain points your solution addresses.
Companies competing in the same market tend to be locked into similar jargon. In an effort to create differentiation, some brands rely too heavily on technical specifications and data points. Instead, try speaking simply to the problem that your brand solves. What do your target customers need in their toolkit or solution? How can you articulate this, without relying on buzzwords like “innovative,” “comprehensive” or “transformative?”
Whenever possible, provide anecdotes or use cases that demonstrate how your product or solution can be applied in the real world. Customer success stories will always carry more value than any piece of sales collateral — it’s tangible proof that your product or solution can get the job done.
Discuss what you prioritize.
What are your motivations? If your answer is simply to provide a product or solution, you need to revisit your brand story. Try speaking to your values and how they have influenced your products and solutions. Nowadays, customers latch on to socially conscious approaches that understand not just their pain points, but larger issues in their vertical. State your goals and envision the long-term impact of your presence in the market. Doing so will provide a clear roadmap of where you want to go and how you can position your brand.
Offer your level of expertise and background.
People love a good story. Examples of success inspire not just minds, but also purchases. Build credibility with your own background. Discuss what influenced the rise of your product — especially if this resonates with common experiences or pain points in your company’s target vertical. Describing your experience will bolster your credibility as a thought leader and provide context for your brand’s offerings.
Less is more.
Make sure your language is accessible. Your messaging should successfully inform the function and purpose of your market without falling prey to unnecessary flash or too much technical jargon. Say what you need to say and nothing more.
…and that’s it!
Painting a unique picture of your brand requires a solid sense of identity, a clear understanding of your audience, and insight into current and future market trends. If you are able to concisely outline these aspects of your company, personal experience and product, you’ll be able to stand tall among your competitors as they chant the same, anemic buzzwords.
Philip Kotler, affectionately known as the “Father of Modern Marketing,” once defined brand positioning as the “act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.”
It’s a lesson that any company, from scrappy upstarts to enterprise brands with a century of success, should take to heart — no matter your vertical or target audience, distinction is the key to effective positioning.
However, most companies fall short of this charge. According to Forbes, just one in four corporate brands is perceived as different from their competitors.
For brands looking to gain a competitive edge, the represents a tremendous opportunity.
We’ve all seen messaging that fails to accurately communicate a brand’s vision or key benefits.
Whether it’s a lack of differentiation, failing to identify market hot buttons or putting technology ahead of customers, poor positioning can render other marketing efforts futile.
Instead, your messaging should:
Successful positioning is not only knowing what to include, but what to leave out. As a brand, this means having a clearly defined vision, access to data, input from stakeholders and more.
The following are some of the elements that go into the positioning process:
Positioning overhauls are rarely a binary exercise.
Although driving sales should be the ultimate goal of any marketing effort, the way you get there — and the metrics used to define success — varies by your brand and starting position. Metrics that are top of mind for one company might not matter for others.
Just think about the business value of a reduction in negative sentiment. For an enterprise brand coming off a wave of bad press or a PR crisis, this carries tremendous value. For a startup looking to increase its share of voice, it’s not as important.
The ultimate sign of positioning success for any brand? When your competitors start parroting your messages.
At Karbo Communications, we specialize in guiding brands through the complete positioning process, from market research and internal audits to the development of positioning statements. The end result? Clear differentiation, nuanced messaging, increased market understanding, and a clear roadmap of trends and opportunities to leverage in the months ahead.
For a long time, most companies shied away from mixing business with social issues.
Even athletes like Michael Jordan, as much a walking, talking brand as any person alive, drew a hard line at expressing any type of controversial opinion.
In 1990, the state of North Carolina was divided by a heated Senate race between two polarizing candidates. On one side stood Sen. Jesse Helms, who once called the 1964 Civil Rights Act the “single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”
On the other stood Harvey Gantt, a black Democrat and former mayor of Charlotte who promised to work for the voters, not play on their worst fears.
With the race deadlocked, Gantt’s campaign reached out to Jordan – native son and local hero – for an endorsement. The NBA superstar declined. He wasn’t into politics, he claimed, and didn’t know the issues. Privately, he told a friend, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
Months later, Helms narrowly won re-election.
Twenty-eight years ago, Jordan’s reluctance to get involved wasn’t all that unusual among star athletes and brands alike. Most companies walled off their products and services from the world around them, content to let the debates play out elsewhere.
Commerce, not conscience, was the operative word.
Today, brands are finding that the number of values-based consumers is on the rise, especially among millennials. According to a recent Forrester report, nearly seven in 10 millennials consider a company’s values when making a purchase — nearly 40% higher than the adult population as a whole.
Most of these consumers are not looking for companies to endorse a political candidate or ballot measure. Instead, they want them to declare – and act on – corporate values. Whether it’s promoting inclusivity, pushing back against traditional gender roles or making a commitment to environmental responsibility, people what to know what matters to their favorite brands.
The challenge for marketing teams is figuring out when, where and how to promote their brand’s corporate values.
After seeing villages full of barefoot children in Argentina, founder Blake Mycoskie returned to the United States and built his company on a simple but powerful idea: if you buy a pair of TOMS, you help someone in need. To date, the company has sold more than 75 million pairs of shoes.
Other companies have enjoyed success by re-positioning their brand to appear more authentic or inclusive. Whether it’s American Eagle exclusively using unairbrushed models in its Aerie ads or Louboutin expanding its line of nude shoes to include additional skin shades, companies are finding ways to make more of their customers feel like a reflection of the brand.
Some brands have even used values-based marketing to connect with specific customer segments. In 2017, Yoplait launched a campaign that showed new mothers addressing common criticisms, from breastfeeding in public to returning to work.
Did it have much to do with yogurt? Not really. But it positioned Yoplait as a modern, progressive company and engendered a lot of goodwill among a key demographic. According to analysis from Google, the campaign resulted in a 1,461% increase in brand interest.
Aligning with a social cause is popular right now, but it still has to make sense for your brand and track with your public and private efforts. The following questions can help you determine whether your brand will benefit from a values-based marketing campaign:
1. Does it track with your brand’s values and core offering?
Like good chemistry or the splits, values-based marketing is not something that should be forced.
If you want to incorporate values-based marketing into your outreach, be sure to pick a cause that makes sense. Hitching your wagon to the cause du jour will make you look mercenary and could negatively impact your brand.
2. Does it make sense for your target demographic(s)?
While millennials are most likely to be influenced by values-based marketing, other generations are also paying attention. In 2017, more than half of Gen X consumers (ages 44 to 53) said they consider a company’s values when making a purchase.
Base: 5,005 to 5,396 U.S. online adults (18+)
Source: Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics’ North American Omnibus Surveys, 2015 and 2017
The younger your target demographic, the more you should incorporate values into your marketing.
3. Be transparent and tangible
Between the number of internet watchdogs and the ease with which information can spread, saying your brand is committed to a cause isn’t enough. You need to be able to show tangible proof, whether it’s corporate policy, charitable donations or a specific program.
If the last few years are any indication, values-based marketing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, as millennial (and younger) shoppers gain purchasing power and take on a larger market share, the need for brands to connect on a socially adept, customer-centric level will continue to increase.
According to Forbes, people 23 and younger already account for $143B in annual spending, not counting the influence they have on household spending. By 2020, they are on track to become the largest generation of consumers in history.
Friendly bit of advice for marketers everywhere — get ready for Gen Z.
With the recent ransomware attacks that originated in Ukraine – listed under numerous names: Petya, NotPetya or GoldenEye – happening just weeks after WannaCry, security experts worldwide say that these new cyber attacks are just the beginning of a global ransomware epidemic.
These new attacks are impacting the way computer users have traditionally done things. In the past, users would take their time in adopting to new versions of software, because just like new car models, you want to make sure all of the kinks are worked out before taking the next step.
In the case of software, new versions are often adopted slowly, with trepidations from the possibility of new bugs introduced or new minor “feature” introductions that are not always welcome additions. Other users postpone the automatic patches because it disrupts their workday and they figure they will just run them later – sometimes months later, or they never get around to it.
But after these latest ransomware attacks, that traditional slow approach to software updates and patches has to change. Keeping your software up-to-date becomes imperative, from both business and personal perspectives. The need is to ensure your software is up-to-date to guard against malware and ransomware attacks that may not only hold your data for ransom, but may utilize your data and personal data for far more damaging results.
BDNA found that in one organization with more than 550,000 software installations, 56 percent of its software was found to be end-of-life (EOL), posing a very high security risk. More than 6,350 instances of the software installed had come to EOL more than 14 years before, and included applications from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Symantec and more.
This kind of environment can become a ransomware attacker’s heaven. The driving force of ransomware will drive users to update their software more diligently. But human behavioral changes can take much longer than businesses can sustain.
So what’s the answer? How can organizations stay ahead of the ransomware game?
Software vulnerabilities in commercial products are the biggest source of data breaches in the enterprise. Not managing EOL of enterprise applications has major implications on enterprise security, compliance, and the ability to enforce critical processes.
One of the most common questions we get from companies eager to work with Karbo Com is, “What reporters do you have relationships with?” While we have formed strong relationships based on the value we place on working with the press, the question doesn’t get to the heart of what these companies want. The real question should be, “Do you have what it takes to get me the results I need?” We love to answer that question, even though the response is different for every company.
What most companies outside the agency inner circle don’t realize is that while relationships can get a reporter to open your email, the relationship alone won’t garner a great article. A compelling topic or news about something the reporter—and his/her editor and readers—care about is what does it. Yes, we write emails that tend to get the attention of the right editorial staff, but once that door is open and you get someone’s interest, the need for persistence takes over. Benjamin Franklin wrote “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” This month, his wisdom, and our dedication to results, played out yet again for three of our clients. We acquired phenomenal feature stories: A contributed article for eBay Advertising’s data guru in AdWeek and a Q&A with RTI’s CEO, which took up three quarters of the front page of the Mercury News business section. HARO opportunities are notoriously hard to secure, but our TDK team worked over a period of several months to have the client included in an IEEE Insight article about attracting engineering talent—an evergreen goal for the company. This month, we also executed a major launch on behalf of Vineti, a pioneering cell and gene therapy software and analytics company, announcing their Series A funding round and the first software platform to accelerate cancer cure process and delivery. We aggressively pursued the top business and tech press to secure coverage in TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and Fortune.
All four teams had to be tenacious to see their efforts come to fruition.
More often it’s not who you know, but how you get it done.
At the recent Internet of Things World conference, a speaker stated that if you don’t yet have a detailed Internet of Things (IoT) strategy, you’re already too late. While we don’t believe that’s true, many companies are planning or implementing their connection to the IoT. At Karbo Communications we’ve been actively involved in the IoT market for over two years and have seen it evolve from the visionary stage to the planning stage to the implementation stage, with many companies well into this current phase. Karbo Com ran public relations for the June IoT World conference, and what’s being planned and implemented is staggering. According to Gartner, 2016 will be the year the IoT market explodes with more than 6.4 billion IoT devices used globally. By 2020, that number is expected to more than triple, to reach 20.8 billion.
With this in mind, it’s imperative that companies begin amplifying their IoT marketing strategies to avoid getting left behind. To develop a winning IoT marketing strategy, you should consider the following crucial elements:
A marketing campaign is never one-size-fits-all, and this is especially true for the IoT market. A successful campaign relies on working with a PR and Marketing team who knows the industry inside and out, to help you customize your campaign to hit your target markets while achieving your business objectives.
The past few years have been transformative when it comes to pretty much getting anything you want in record time from the comfort of your smartphone. Whether it’s groceries via Instacart, reliable transportation from Lyft or a full makeup team from GlamSquad, the tidal wave of on-demand service apps along with their seemingly instant successes is astonishing. Aside from the obvious benefit of convenience, why are on-demand services a booming business model?
Could this be the result of the “textbook” millennial and Gen Z’s desire for almost instant gratification and all things app-driven? These services clearly aren’t solving hard problems, and maybe that’s the point. The emergence of on-demand services are the result of a real-time oriented, innovative culture that wants to spend their time on the important things in life, without sacrificing the comforts of the little things. A product of the idiom “keep it simple stupid” these businesses show that prioritization and convenience, not laziness, are at the root of this trend.
Without a doubt, there will continue to be a wave of startups vying for a share of the on-demand economy. With a healthy funding ecosystem and the move to mobile-first app development, we can expect to see a growing number of on-demand apps. Undoubtedly, we’ll also see a record number of failures. It’s becoming harder to garner the attention of your target market before you become “old news.” So how does a company set its app apart? As the industry becomes increasingly saturated, it will be important for service apps to differentiate themselves. In order to put distance between similar brands, companies will need to either disrupt the market via strongly differentiated services, lower prices, faster delivery systems, or by expanding the product offering by integrating other products or services. And of course, aggressive and innovative marketing will be required. Uber is the perfect example. In addition to the traditional Uber rideshare program, the company launched temporary initiatives such as UberChopper and UberIceCream. Smart, targeted creativity will become more important than ever in order to break through the noise. And nine times out of ten you’ll see creative marketing organizations and their PR agencies leading the charge.
A product or service debut frequently hinges on many things – customer demand, resources, unexpected technical challenges, and competitive threats – among other factors. When planning launches companies consider many things, but carefully orchestrating timing in light of what’s happening in the world isn’t typically one of them. Yet timing can dictate success or failure. It’s frequently tied to market activity and other events that determine the likelihood that you will be heard. The goal must be to reduce the amount of ‘noise’ that stands between you and your audience. As a result, you always want to announce on a date that has little competing activity. Sometimes these dates can’t be predicted. The death of Steve Jobs is a tragic example of this. But most of the time we know when these times are:
As author and critic Marya Mannes wrote, “Timing and arrogance are decisive factors in the successful use of talent.” When choosing a date to make an important announcement, make sure you master the former and abandon the latter.
Julie Karbo, Founder and CEO
Yes, it seems like a pipe dream. But knowing as much about your competitors as possible is absolutely essential to your success. A lack of it is a sure path to positioning that misses the mark, a frustrating sales process, wasted resources, and ultimately failure. Too dire a prediction? Absolutely not. You know that your product is the best thing out there, but don’t be egotistical enough to think people will take your word for it. You have to be prepared to prove it to the rest of the world.
We do a deep dive with all new clients. We interview executives, review existing research, and when feasible conduct primary research. We strive to understand our clients’ products, markets and the company as well as the internal team does. One of the essential areas we seek information on is our clients’ competitors. We won’t settle for – “We don’t have competitors” or “Our product is faster and cheaper than anything else on the market.” Your customers know you have competitors. When they seek to buy—especially when they’re investing significant amounts of time and/or money– they know exactly what their options are, how your features and benefits compare to the market leaders and/or innovators, the total cost of ownership, and a number of other factors. Potential investors will ask who your competitors are so they can undertake due diligence. Reporters will ask you in almost every interview. That coveted hire will be smart enough to research your competitors to ensure your company represents a smart career move. And if your competitors are smart, they’re crafting ways to differentiate themselves from you and attacking any real or perceived weakness. If they aren’t doing it now, they will when you launch and your PR results start pouring in.
There are several things we do to clarify differentiators and uncover potential positioning landmines. You should undertake these tasks or let Karbo Com take them off your plate prior to the positioning process:
These elements are absolutely essential. If you have the luxury of being able to take a top notch approach, consider customer audits conducted by your communications team. When I was at Regis McKenna, we required that our new clients undertake external audits. We would interview the key external stakeholders including analysts, customers, press, and other influencers. We crafted questions that were designed to get at real motivations, biases, requirements, purchase influences and processes, emotional triggers, perceptions of our clients’ and perceptions of their competitors. Invariably the audits exposed important information that had been hidden from the company’s teams.
These interviews are also helping your PR team more effectively speak for your customers when they develop content, pitch reporters, talk to market analysts, etc. Sure they can hear this from you secondhand, but it’s never as good as a direct conversation.
So take the time to possess the highest degree of market intelligence. You can choose to take short cuts, but are you willing to bet your company on a lack of competitive vision? Will your competitors take that chance?